South Carolina Polls 2016: Trump Retains Commanding Lead After Debate

Donald Trump South Carolina, Donald Trump polls, Latest GOP polls South Carolina

Donald Trump had reason to be pleased at a February 15 rally in Greenville, South Carolina. He still holds a commanding lead in Palmetto State polls. (Getty)

The National Review’s Tim Alberta summed it up best. Though it may have been predictable, Donald Trump provided what was nevertheless an “astonishing” moment Saturday night: The GOP frontrunner attacked President George W. Bush during a debate in Greenville, South Carolina, for failing to prevent the September 11 terrorist attacks. While he was at it, Trump accused Bush of lying about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction in the leadup to the Iraq war.

The comments drew loud boos from the crowd and some chatter from pundits about whether Trump had finally gone too far for the Republican primary electorate. Though he was deeply unpopular with the general electorate when he left office in 2009, Bush remains extremely popular among Republican primary voters.

So is Trump paying the price in the polls for his anti-Bush comments? So far, the answer appears to be no. Three South Carolina polls came out Monday — the first since Saturday’s debate — and each show Trump with a commanding lead over the rest of the field.

A CBS poll conducted after Saturday night’s debate showed that a plurality of voters — 32 percent — thought Marco Rubio won the debate, while 24 percent said the same of Trump. It’s possible the debate helped Rubio, who’s tied for second in both post-debate South Carolina polls after being in third or fourth in most pre-debate polls. But the early data shows that Rubio’s gains are hurting John Kasich and Jeb Bush rather than Trump.

CNN also released a new poll Tuesday, but the poll was conduced from February 10-15, meaning four of the six days of polling took place before the February 13 debate. The poll shows Trump leading the pack with 38 percent of the vote. But Trump’s support fell from 40 percent in the four days of polling before the debate to 31 percent in the two days afterward.

Here’s a look at the latest polling data:

PPP Poll

Public Policy Polling released its latest South Carolina survey on Tuesday morning. The poll was conducted February 14 and 15 and has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points. In addition to asking respondents for whom they plan to vote in Saturday’s primary, PPP asked respondents who they would pick in hypothetical matchups if there were fewer choices. You can check out the full poll for all of the data. But a sampling of the key findings is below.

6-Way Race (Slate of Candidates in the Race Now)

Donald Trump 35%
Marco Rubio 18%
Ted Cruz 18%
John Kasich 10%
Jeb Bush 7%
Ben Carson 7%

4 Way Race Between Trump, Cruz, Rubio & Bush

Donald Trump 39%
Marco Rubio 21%
Ted Cruz 20%
Jeb Bush 12%

3-Way Race Between Trump, Rubio & Cruz

Donald Trump 40%
Marco Rubio 28%
Ted Cruz 22%

2-Way Race Between Trump & Rubio

Donald Trump 46%
Marco Rubio 45%

2-Way Race Between Trump & Cruz

Donald Trump 48%
Ted Cruz 38%

2-Way Race Between Trump & Bush

 Donald Trump  50%
 Jeb Bush  40%

2-Way Race Between Rubio & Cruz

Marco Rubio 47%
Ted Cruz 37%


The CNN/ORC poll was conducted February 10-15. It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Donald Trump 36%
Ted Cruz 22%
Marco Rubio 14%
Jeb Bush 10%
Ben Carson 6%
John Kasich 4%

South Carolina House GOP Caucus Poll, Post-Debate

The South Carolina House GOP caucus was the first organization to publish polls both before and after Saturday’s debate. The caucus’ most recent poll was conducted February 14. It has a margin of error of 2.83 percentage points. Trump’s numbers declined by about 1.8 points after the debate, while Cruz’s declined by about 1.5 points and Rubio’s increased by about 1.5 points. The post-debate data is below:

Donald Trump 32.65%
Marco Rubio 14.02%
Ted Cruz 13.94%
Jeb Bush 13.39%
John Kasich 9.87%
Ben Carson 5.79%

South Carolina GOP House Caucus Poll, Pre-Debate

For comparison’s sake, here’s the first GOP caucus poll. The caucus poll was conducted February 11-12. It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Donald Trump 34.5%
Ted Cruz 15.5%
Jeb Bush 13%
Marco Rubio 12.5%
John Kasich 8.5%
Ben Carson 5%

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